Wayne Gretzky's tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a period marked largely by on-ice futility, ended abruptly Thursday when "The Great One" announced he would be stepping down amid the financial turmoil surrounding the team.
The Coyotes hired former Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett hours after Gretzky announced his departure, which had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the team dragged on.
"This was a difficult decision that I've thought long and hard about," Gretzky said in a statement on his website. "We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected.
"Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don't fit into their future plans, I approached General Manager Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach."
Gretzky, who was due to make $8.5 million this season, coached the Coyotes from 2005-2009, finishing with a 143-161-24 record, and the team missed the playoffs in all four seasons.
Gretzky, 48, also owns a small piece of the franchise.
Tippett compiled a 271-162-59 record in six seasons with the Stars, who missed the playoffs last season.
Teemu Selanne beat Vancouver's Andrew Raycroft from a sharp angle with 1:11 left in overtime and the Ducks ended the Canucks' perfect exhibition season with a 3-2 victory at Vancouver, Canada. Before the game, the Ducks traded defenseman Steve McCarthy to the Atlanta Thrashers for future considerations. . . . Montreal Canadiens defenseman Patrice Brisebois retired, ending his 18-year NHL career with plans to drive in NASCAR's Canadian series. . . . The Canucks and Coach Alain Vigneault agreed to a three-year contract extension. . . . The Colorado Avalanche signed veteran forward Milan Hejduk to a one-year contract extension through the 2010-11 season.
Kansas players sorry for fighting
Kansas basketball players involved in fighting with Jayhawks football players apologized, saying they embarrassed themselves and the school.
During an impromptu news conference, basketball Coach Bill Self called the fighting bad for the entire university. He and a few of his players met with reporters for the first time since fighting erupted Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning at two sites on the normally peaceful campus.
Basketball guard Tyshawn Taylor injured his finger and will be sidelined for up to a month. He apparently was one of the main instigators and posted on his Facebook page that he had injured his finger "throwing a punch."
Army fired men's coach Jim Crews after seven losing seasons. In seven years, Crews had a record of 60-139. . . . Binghamton University player Emanuel "Tiki" Mayben pleaded not guilty at his arraignment to possessing and selling cocaine.
Massa to get back behind wheel
Formula One driver Felipe Massa, recovering from multiple skull fractures from a crash in July, will get back behind the wheel in a charity karting event in November.
Massa said he would join former Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher, fellow Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello and other racing stars for his own organized event from Nov. 27-29 in Florianopolis, Brazil.
Renault lost sponsorship deals with insurance companies Mutua Madrilena and ING because of the Formula One team's race-fixing scandal. The moves were based on Monday's decision by F1 ruling body FIA that Renault deliberately had one of its cars crash during last year's Singapore Grand Prix.
Gustafson leads LPGA event
Sophie Gustafson shot a seven-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Danville, Calif.
Sophia Sheridan matched Angela Stanford and Na Ri Kim at 67. Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa had five consecutive birdies in a 68. Casie Cathrea, a 13-year-old playing on a sponsor exemption after winning a qualifier, made a hole in one on the 155-yard 12th and finished with a 74.
Power forward David Lee, who averaged 16 points and 11.7 rebounds last season, re-signed with the New York Knicks, getting a one-year deal worth about $8 million. . . . Jerome Valcke, FIFA's No. 2 official, sees no need to move Honduras' World Cup qualifier against the United States next month but said the situation could change depending on security developments. . . . French prosecutors have dismissed a lawsuit filed by tennis player Richard Gasquet in an attempt to further clear himself from a positive test for cocaine. . . . Former major leaguer Terry Tiffee hit his fourth home run of the baseball World Cup and the United States beat Cuba, 5-3, at Rome in a likely preview of this weekend's final.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the appointment of Keith Brackpool, 52, and Richard Rosenberg, 70, to the California Horse Racing Board if confirmed by the state Senate.
Brackpool has served at Cadiz, a land and water resource development company. Rosenberg was executive vice president of the William Morris Agency from 1992 to 2005.
-- Eric Sondheimer